Go flat out on Pancake Day

31st January 2017 Recipes

If you love pancakes then this year get your pan ready 16th February

Of course Pancake Day has been celebrated for hundreds of years when it was more commonly known as Shrove Tuesday. Lent was traditionally a time of fasting and Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were “shriven” meaning absolved from their sins. A bell would be rung to call people to confession and this came to be called the “Pancake Bell” and is still rung today.

But whatever you call it, the date changes every year because it is determined by when Easter falls, but it is always the day before Ash Wednesday (which is the first day of Lent), and always falls in either February or March.

Traditionally pancakes were a way to use up rich foods like eggs and milk before the 40 day fasting season of Lent began. But although it is known primarily as a Christian tradition, it is believed that Pancake Day might also originate from a pagan holiday, when warm, round pancakes symbolised the sun – as a way of heralding the arrival of spring.

The ingredients for pancakes can be seen to symbolise four points of significance at this time of year as follows:

Eggs – Creation
Flour – The staff of life
Salt – Wholesomeness
Milk – Purity

Do you know that it is estimated that 52 million eggs are used in Britain each year on Shrove Tuesday! But as well as making and enjoying pancakes, we also love to flip our pancakes in a pan as well as having pancake races. In fact legend has it that this particular tradition was born in the 15th century in Olney in Buckinghamshire when a disorganised woman rushed to church to confess her sins to the priest whilst mid-way through making pancakes! Olney still holds a pancake race every year but competitors must all wear an apron and hat.

In Britain we tend to keep our pancake ingredients quite simple, but in Newfoundland objects with symbolic value are added in to the pancake batter. These items are then used to interpret different messages – for example, a pancake with a ring inside may signify marriage. In France however, it is traditional while flipping a pancake to hold a coin in one hand and to make a wish. The French actually call Pancake Day Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday and this originates from the ancient ritual of parading an ox through Paris to remind people that it was forbidden to eat meat during the Lent period.

On Pancake Day in Scotland the locals like to eat “festy cock”, the word festy is linked to Festern’s E’en, which is the day before Shrove Tuesday, when cock fighting took place. You make the dish by rolling out finely ground oatmeal and folding it into a rough bird shape before baking and eating as a substitute for a cockerel.

When it comes to record breaking pancakes, the largest pancake in the world was made in Rochdale in 1994, weighing in at three tonnes and measuring more than 49 feet long! The largest number of pancake flips in the shortest amount of time is currently 349 flips in two minutes and the largest stack of pancakes ever cooked was made up of 60 pancakes and standing at an impressive 76cm high.

But getting back to something a little more normal and indeed appetising, here is our tried and tested recipe for making pancakes. Traditionally a pancake is a very thin, flat cake, made of batter and fried in a frying pan and should be served immediately. How you like to eat them is of course open to debate; are you old school and like them with lemon juice and sugar, golden syrup and butter or perhaps a little more indulgent with fresh blueberries and whipped cream? You might even enjoy them thicker and stacked North American style with crispy bacon and maple syrup or are you inspired by the French who eat their crepes with chocolate hazelnut spread?

However you like to eat your pancakes be sure to enjoy them this Pancake Day (and any other day that you fancy them for that matter) and please try to save one or two for the cook!


To make approximately 8 pancakes, size up accordingly:

4 oz plain flour
1 large egg
½ pint milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Break in the egg, add a pinch of salt and a splash of the milk.
Whisk the egg, gradually incorporating the flour, to make a smooth cream. Whisk in the rest of the milk and the melted butter.Put all the ingredients in a blender jug with a pinch of salt. Whizz until smooth.Brush a hot pan with oil before adding a ladleful of batter, tipping the pan so the mixture spreads evenly. Pour any excess back into the bowl.

When the pancake is browned on the bottom give the pan a shake to make sure the pancake is loose. If it is sticking, use a spatula to loosen it. When it moves freely you are ready to toss it. The other side will only need a few seconds.